The #1 Question

5 Dec

Since I have been living in Prague, I have a lot of times where I do not actually grasp that I am in fact, living in Prague. And since I have been here, no matter who I meet, whether it be local Czechs, vacationers on the pub crawl or other expats who have also chosen to reside here, I always seem to get asked the most important question of all:

What made you choose Prague?

Well in order to ever answer this question, we need to take a little trip down memory lane…

When I first arrived here in July, I was all ready for my TEFL course. Only being less than two months after my own college graduation, I was still in full-blown student mode. I knew the best notebooks, pens & study methods. I had mastered the routine of mixed drink/stage dancing/missing the last shuttle Gill’s Thursdays, followed by “Oh he doesn’t even take attendance” Friday 9ams fast-forward to 2am Lower Commons pizza Friday nights to “Oh my God, my school is so pretty…I want to actually explore today!” Saturdays, to all-day Sunday library residency. Welcome to college life!

Graduating wasn’t as emotional for me as I expected. I expected to sob & take millions of pictures with friends & thank my professors for teaching me all their knowledgeable ways. Instead I was getting texts from my brothers mid-processional march to hurry up because they were starving & bored after sitting for 2hrs. Thanks, guys! So instead of taking one last appreciative trip down memory lane, I packed up my dorm room in less than 15 minutes & we sped out of there to avoid traffic. Welcome to the Graves family!Image(Above: The beautiful Mount Hope Bridge, which is part of Roger Williams University’s amazing campus) 

I still miss Rog. Every single day. I miss the perfect campus that men on giant lawn mowers insist on mowing at 6am, I miss the amazing food that is so abundant with selection (healthy or not), & I really miss living right near all my bestest friends ❤ I knew these were going to be the hardest things for me to leave behind after graduation, but it makes it even harder that I’m so dang far away. I can’t just pop by to pet the campus cats or say “Hi” to Jesse the Janitor if I want to. Nope, I live in Europe now. Talk about a major first world problem, huh?

Leaving Rog was hard, but I knew I would be okay. Because I have left beautiful places before. At the age of 14, unlike most 8th graders I was given a choice: what high school do you want to go to? Coming from my small Catholic, uniform-wearing, nun residing, same 10 boys for 7 years school Assumption (discussed in the Boys, Boys, Boys post), I was ready for a change. I expanded my class of 22 to 65, a much more lax dress code (but don’t you DARE wear rivets/no collard shirt!) & a whole other state. I chose the amazing Marianapolis Preparatory School in the scenic Thompson, Connecticut.

I would like to say that Rog set the bar for me always seeming to demand to live in beautiful places, but it was allll MPS. My memories at this wonderful school include running through the picturesque CT countryside with my XC team, acting in the awesome school plays & meeting people from all around the world. Unlike most private religious schools, MPS had 5 dormitories which housed international students from like, 18 different countries. So much that we would celebrate Chinese New Year & the Korean holiday of Chuseok. My favorite day was International Day, where everyone was encouraged to dress in their traditional clothing & cook traditional food. This made me want to see the world.

Image(Above: Marianapolis Preparatory School. Did your high school have a front gate like this..?)

It was also during my time at MPS that I begged Mama G to let me go on the yearly student trip (every year at MPS teachers would chaperon a different spring break trip to different countries around the world) to…drumroll…PARIS. This school gave me the courage to move to another state for college at Roger Williams, & this trip to Paris gave me the desire to study abroad there some day. Everything happens for a reason. 

So back to the question of: what made you choose Prague?

Response #1: I love to live in beautiful places & will never stop demanding to do so.

I went from Sutton, Mass., to Thompson, Conn., to Bristol, R.I., to Paris…you don’t just go home after residencies like that. There’s a lot more to it though. It’s the architecture & passionate way of life that is evident through the surroundings. A sense of pride. While living in Paris made me feel like I was living in a romance novel, & Bristol made me feel like I was living in nautical heaven, Prague makes me legit feel like I live in Disney World. That’s the only way to describe it. Old Town is just sooo awesome. Even my neighborhood has so many interesting buildings, buildings I have never seen before in my life. 

If you really have power to chose where you want to live, why make it somewhere ugly? Somewhere that has no artistic inspiration. Choose somewhere that makes you walk around in awe. Choose a place where you discover some new tiny detail every single day.

Image(Above: my neighborhood church in Jiriho z Podebrad. Prague architecture is so random, yet beautiful)

Response #2: $$$

If I’m talking to a Czech person about their city, I maybe leave this one out. But if I am talking to anyone else, it’s a very important factor. Prague is cheap! I just came from broke college life to even broker European life. As of right now, I pay rent, cell phone, groceries & now to get added to the mix thanks to the ever-gracious financial gods, student loan payments & Czech social security bills. You wonder why I work two jobs? Because I have to. There are times where I have no money at all & have been actually very scared. But if I knew that if I had chosen to live in a country that used the EURO I would have much bigger money problems. Now that I’ve been here 4 months I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of things I mean just a little bit. Of course things could change drastically month to month, but I am okay. It’s always nice to live in a city where, when you have no money for food, can get a rholik (long piece of bread roll) for 1.70czk (about 0.08th of a cent!) & that is a suitable snack/lunch. Also a half liter of beer is like 25czk ($1.20). Eating & drinking will never truly be a problem for me over here, thanks Praha!


Response #3: Prague had no expectations to live up to

Or, let me rephrase that, no one else’s expectations to live up to. Like most Americans, before I studied abroad, I knew virtually nothing about Prague. Then when I was in Paris, I saw photo albums of friends who had traveled there & just thought it looked so pretty. I only heard positive feedback about Prague. Sometimes you watch the news, or listen to a friend/relative/acquaintance talk about their travels to certain places & you began to get some pre-conceived notions. Notions that will either slightly taint this place, or even worse, completely build it up. I have traveled to certain cities with pre-conceived notions. I went there expecting to love it based on everyone else’s experiences but upon leaving, I realized that this place just wasn’t for me.

I went to Paris hearing “Oh you have to go…” “You have to eat…” & I did all those things. I moved there & lived in a city that had such a public opinion whether it was positive or not. Before moving to Prague all I heard was “Where?” “Why are you going there?” & I guess this is the true reason that I moved to a small 1million resident city in Bohemia..

Because it’s an open book.


It hasn’t been tainted by stereotypes & tales of caution. It hasn’t been built up by tourist traps or cheesy attractions. I get to blaze my own trail. I get to figure out on my own the customs & how people work over here. I get to decide through reality, not glamorized fantasy, if I actually like living here or not. It’s the best way to move to a country–jumping in head first. Although Prague & I definitely had our rough patch, back when I constantly resented it for not being Paris, I realized this city is growing on me more & more everyday.

This past week I went back to Vienna to pick up my visa. I liked the Christmas markets & pretty buildings but just thought to myself: Pshh this is better in Prague. & During my 4-hr bus ride back, as soon as I crossed the border & my indestructible little Czech phone allowed me to send text messages again, I typed two words instictively, without even thinking:

Almost home.” 

-JG 🙂 


3 Responses to “The #1 Question”

  1. ronald stacy December 5, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    great story. Looks like once you seen the new countries you don’t want to go home.

  2. ronald stacy December 12, 2013 at 2:06 am #

    Home is where the heart is. Enjoy your dreams. But don’t forget where your heart belongs

    • jgravesss December 12, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      I never will Grampy, love you

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